2023 Winners

Arts and Humanities


Michael Salgarolo, Graduate School of Arts and Science

Department: Department of History
Degree Date: September 2022
Dissertation Title: “Transimperial Histories and Racial Formations in Filipino Louisiana, 1860-1949”
Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow, NYU College Core Curriculum
Preferred pronouns: he/him

Dissertation summary:
My dissertation, Transimperial Histories and Racial Formations in Filipino Louisiana, 1860-1949, tells the story of sailors from the Philippines who settled in Louisiana’s coastal marshes in the nineteenth century and examines how they and their descendants navigated the racial landscape of Jim Crow. I argue that Louisiana Filipinos’ claims to subjecthood and cultural affinity with both the Spanish and American empires were crucial to their ability to access the privileges of whiteness and the rights of American citizenship. I demonstrate that the formation of transoceanic networks of diasporic Filipino sailors were a product of a broad exchange of goods, peoples, and ideas among the Spanish, British, and American empires. Moreover, I reveal that the process of racial formation in Filipino Louisiana was shaped by the transmission of racial ideologies within and across imperial boundaries. Rather than a narrow focus on a dyadic “white/non-white” understanding of racial formation, I employ a “relational” understanding of race, examining the ways in which the racialization of Filipinos was formed in relationship to other racialized groups, particularly African Americans. The project connects traditionally disconnected fields of study: the history of Asian America and the history of the American South; the history of the American empire and the history of southern Jim Crow; and the history of the Atlantic World and the history of the Pacific Rim.

Public Health & Allied Health


Gabriella Metzer, School of Global Public Health

Department: Social & Behavioral Sciences
Degree Date: May 2022
Dissertation Title: “Children’s Risk and Resilience Facing Cumulative Environmental Stress: A Case Study of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill”
Current position: NIEHS T32 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
Preferred pronouns: she/her

Dissertation summary:
Children are uniquely vulnerable to disasters and other environmental hazards. My dissertation argues that children and disaster research should take a socio-exposomics approach to examine the effects of child and adolescent exposure to cumulative disasters alongside chronic environmental stressors in the context of the family systems in which they are embedded. It develops and validates a conceptual framework elucidating the pathways from cumulative environmental stress exposure to child/adolescent physical and mental health outcomes that incorporates conservation of resources, family stress, and allostatic load theories.

Science & Technology


Alain Boldini, Tandon School of Engineering

Department: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Degree Date: May 2022
Dissertation Title: “Understanding Actuation in Ionic Polymer Metal Composites: From Physical Principles to Engineering Design”
Current position: Postdoctoral Associate and Adjunct Professor, New York University Tandon School of Engineering 
Position beginning in September: tenure-track Assistant Professor, New York Institute of Technology 
Preferred pronouns: none

Dissertation summary:
How do we imagine robots? Regardless of the culture references that have shaped our  image of robots, we typically picture robots as heavy objects made by metals or rigid  plastics, often driven by hydraulic pistons or electric motors. Even state-of-the-art, popular  robots still appear bulky, heavy, and made of rigid materials. But in many situations, using a robot built of rigid materials is challenging or dangerous.  For example, rigid robots used for health applications, such as in rehabilitation, pose  potentially serious threats to patients, as they can generate forces that could injure a  person rather than helping them recover. Why are we not using soft materials to build robots? Chiefly, because our understanding  of their behavior is still limited. Motivated by this research problem, in my dissertation, I studied the behavior of a special type of soft, active materials, called ionic membranes, and built tools to support their use in soft robotics and biomedical devices that interact with humans.


Margot Elmaleh, Vilcek Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences

Degree Date: January 2023
Dissertation Title: “Functional architecture of the zebra finch song production circuit”
Current position: Post Doctoral Fellow, Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt, Germany
Preferred pronouns: she/her

Dissertation summary:
Skilled movements, such as speech and musical performance, are central to our everyday lives. The mechanisms enabling such complex actions are poorly understood, limiting our ability to intervene when brain injury or neural disorders compromise these processes. A major barrier to progress is an inability to understand the impact of local brain processes within the context of a large, interconnected network. By leveraging emerging recording methodologies and isolating behaviorally relevant brain activity during both wake and sleep, I successfully addressed this difficult issue, and paved the way to a new understanding of the link between brain function and skilled motor performance.


Linan Huang, Tandon School of Engineering

Department: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Degree Date: May 2022
Dissertation Title: “AI-Powered System-Scientific Defense for High-Confidence Cyber-Physical Systems: Modeling, Analysis, and Design”
Current position: Assistant Researcher, Tsinghua University in Beijing, China
Preferred pronouns: he

Dissertation summary:
Today, existing cybersecurity measures cannot stop attackers who use new Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to launch massive, advanced, and persistent threats at a low cost. As computational and physical components have been integrated into Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), these cyberattacks can inflict devastating physical damage to systems like a nuclear power plant, causing life-threatening outcomes. In my dissertation, I developed high-confidence CPS to protect vital information and national security. Drawing on philosophies, theories and tools from multiple disciplines, as well as CPS datasets and human research studies, I laid the scientific foundation for the fifth-generation security paradigm, the “5G-SP,” synthesizing six revolutionary transitions.


Emma Kurz, Vilcek Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences


Degree Date: May 2022
Dissertation Title: “Exploration of Mechanisms that Govern Tumorigenesis and Anti-Tumor Immunity in Pancreatic Cancer”
Current position: 3rd Year Medical Student in the MSTP (Medical Scientist Training Program), NYU Grossman School of Medicine, New York, NY
Preferred pronouns: she/her

Dissertation summary:
Pancreatic cancer is a notoriously deadly disease with minimal response to existing therapy. With a five year survival rate approaching only 11%, pancreatic cancer is projected to become the 2nd leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. by 2030. Decades of drug development have led to little improvement in treatment options for patients, and non-traditional and innovative therapeutic approaches are desperately needed. A growing body of recent evidence indicates that routine aerobic exercise is not only heart-healthy, but also associated with decreased risk of cancer development or cancer mortality, suggesting that specific lifestyle modifications could offer clinical benefit to patients with pancreatic cancer. Therefore, using both mouse models and human data, the purpose of this dissertation work is to determine the effect of aerobic exercise on pancreatic cancer and to harness the relationship between exercise and malignancy to identify novel therapeutic strategies for patients suffering from this disease.

Social Sciences


Annie Brandes-Aitken, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

Department: Applied Psychology
Degree Date: May 2022
Dissertation Title: “Interactions Between Infant Neurocognitive Development and the Social Environment”
Current position: Post-Doctoral Researcher & Independent Consultant, New York University
Preferred pronouns: she/her

Dissertation summary:
Infancy is a period of increased sensitivity to experiences that have lasting developmental consequences, for better or for worse. In particular, the development of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and attention are particularly plastic and foundational in development. However, much remains to be known about the mechanistic pathways by which stress and social enrichment shape infant neurocognitive development. Advancements in the field of person-centered longitudinal study design and analysis can be leveraged to understand how early life experiences shape developmental trajectories of risk and resilience for various psychopathologies. Using both home and laboratory-based approaches, my dissertation investigated experience-dependent neurocognitive development from a multi-system perspective. I specifically focused on the development of infant attention and frontal cortical activity. Infant attention develops according to its environment and supports virtually all other domains of self-regulation and cognition. Thus, effectively characterizing infant attention at the behavioral and biological level is critical to developing prognostic biobehavioral markers for psychopathological risk. In my dissertation, I integrated precise and comprehensive measures of infant attention and frontal cortical function that are both mechanistically informative and also reflective of real-life behaviors.


Chenshuo Sun, Stern School of Business

Department: Technology, Operations, & Statistics
Degree Date: May 2022
Dissertation Title: “Emerging Technologies and the Digital Future”
Current position: Assistant Professor, National University of Singapore
Preferred pronouns: his/him/Dr.

Dissertation summary:
This work was  inspired by my interest in the rapidly evolving digital landscape and the increasing impact of  digital technologies on our lives. My research explores the transformative potential of  technologies such as voice technology and next-generation broadband cellular networks and  their impact on the digital commerce landscape, omnichannel marketing and data-driven value  creation. As the primary author of each essay included in the dissertation, I have dedicated  extensive time and effort to exploring the effects of emerging technologies on the individual,  business and societal levels. I have analysed the impact of these technologies on consumer  behaviour, market structures and digital commerce, as well as the implications of increased  data collection and omnichannel marketing. Through in-depth research and a rigorous  analytical approach, I have gained a deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges  posed by emerging technologies and their potential to reshape the digital economy.


Yangjin Park, Silver School of Social Work

Degree Date: September 2022
Dissertation Title: “Multiple Risk Patterns and Bullying Perpetration and Victimization among Children”
Current position: Assistant Professor, The University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work
Preferred pronouns: he/him/his

Dissertation summary:
Although youth bullying has been decreasing in the last two decades, a significant subset of children still experiences bullying perpetration and victimization. However, to date, a paucity of empirical research has used a person-centered approach to examine expansive domains of risks that are associated with bullying perpetration and victimization among children. Hence, guided by the bioecological model of human development and family resilience theory, this three-paper dissertation examines the underlying patterns of six domains of risks (i.e., individual, family, school, neighborhood, economic, and socio-cultural risks) and their association with bullying perpetration and victimization; the role of internalizing and externalizing behaviors; and the protective and promotive effect of family strength.